November 14th, 2021

My last weekend in Puerto Rico! Next Saturday I'll be heading to Florida to visit my grandma, and then back to Atlanta for the holidays. I've enjoyed my time at Puerto Rico, but am really excited to get back to an English-speaking place and my cutlural comfort zone. I took it pretty easy this weekend, just hanging around San Juan, doing some shopping, etc.

This is the capital building of San Juan, captured at sunset.
A photo taken from Old San Juan.
Every couple of weeks, a huge group of cyclists goes riding around town. Easily 50 people, probably even closer to 100. Unfortunately I never learned how it was organized, so never had a chance to join in.
This is a stretch of beach along the bike route I take for exercise every morning. It's my favorite stretch by far, absolutely gorgeous.
And here's some photos from eating out. A cocktail from Casa de Montecristo, and some sushi and crab salad from XO Asian Cuisine.

November 7th, 2021

This week was mostly uneventful. I had planned a sailing trip on Sunday, but the host cancelled last-minute. So I kind of just winged it, further exploring places around the San Juan area. Nothing new, but still a good time!

On Saturday I headed out to Old San Juan to explore on foot. At least, that's what I thought. Imagine my surprise when the Uber dropped me off on San Francisco street!
A bit prettier than Calle de San Francisco, this is the umbrella street in San Juan. It's a popular tourist attraction, I think you can guess how it gets its name!\
This is Capilla del Santo Cristo de la Salud. This catholic chapel was built sometime in the mid 1700's, which is a bit mind blowing! Really putting the "Old" in Old San Juan.
I also stopped by Barrachina, a restaurant dating back to 1963. They're known for their paella, but even more so they're credited as the birth place of the Piña Colada! I had no idea this famous drink was invented here in San Juan.
Sunday I went for a long bike ride. I stopped by Puerto del Mar to grab some lunch. People out here really enjoy their street food - BBQ chicken and friend goodies.
Here's some assorted food stuff I found while out traveling. The top photo is my lunch at Puerto del Mar. On the bottom left is a popular treat here, dulce de coco. It's shredded cocount and almonds, mixed up with a candy similar to praline. And finally, I saw a full octopus tentacle at the grocery store! I was going to buy it, but then noticed that $40 price tag :P

October 31st, 2021

Happy Halloween! Sorry for the delayed post - I usually try to do these on Sunday, but last week I got food poisoning and was absolutely out of commission for a few days. I'm feeling better now, though, and have a bunch of photos to share:

I got a promotion at work! To celebrate, I went to a nice steakhouse and treated myself. This was the starter - a nice ceviche and a fine rum.
This is Fuente Raíces in downtown San Juan. Really beautiful fountain!
I was out cycling and stumbled upon El Patio De Solé. They had fresh smoothies and the owner was such a nice person. The space was so tranquil and absolutely lovely. 
I went out adventuring in El Yunque Rainforest with a group of people. Fun hike!
Another shot from the bottom of the hike. Getting down all those rocks was a bit sketchy at times, but nothing too wild. There was a swimming hole with about a 15 foot rock to dive from.
In this photo, also in El Yunque, you can see a small opening in the lower center. That was the entrance to a cave! We donned headlamps and did a brief spelunk.
This hidden waterfall was on the other end of the cave from the previous photo. A nice little spot to kick back, go swimming and enjoy. It was relatively shaded which was great.
Here's Castillo San Felipe del Morro, the most famous landmark of San Juan. This was the main entrance to the city while it was still under guard. Now they have a trail that runs all along the outer walls and it's a great place to go cycling.
One section of the castillo walls had become home to colony of feral cats. I saw at least 15 of them wandering around. The smell was absolutely putrid.
Another shot of the castillo walls.
Sunset near Soroco. This weekend was a bit disappointing. I took an hour drive down to Fajardo, only for it to be raining. I wandered over to Soroco but there wasn't much to do or see.
A more scenic shot from my next day's attempt at finding something interesting to do. This time I went to Humacao Nature Preserve which is supposed to have an awesome cycling trail. Unfortunately, it was closed to the public! So, once again, just wandered around the area searching for something to see or do. Luckily the nearby town of Santiago was mildly interesting, with some pretty beaches and curious culture.
Another photo from wandering around near Santiago. Some fisherman enjoying a scenic view of the nearby mountain range.

October 17th, 2021

I've gotten settled into the new apartment - much nicer than the previous place, and the owner is very friendly. The area is great, as well. Lots of nearby restaurants and shops, the beach is just a block away and there's a decent number of dedicated bike lanes throughout the area. I'm still trying to reconcile my sleep schedule, but do feel like I've gotten mostly caught up this weekend.

I had a car rental over the weekend, so took advantage of that to go take some day trips to nearby cities. One thing I quickly learned was the drivers here are crazy. Part of it a cultural thing, I'm sure, but it's also genuinely hard to obey traffic laws even if you wanted to. The road signage and markings are pretty bad, the conditions of the roads are even worse. Another interesting thing I observed while out and about is that folks here must really like their pizza because pizzerias are everywhere here! Anyways, here's photos from my adventures this week.

On Saturday I took a road trip to Isabela, a nearby city which was the starting point for an iconic cycling route that went along the beach and through a forest. At the road into the city, there was this Caro del Indio (Indian Face) carved into the rock.
The cycling route bordered some of the prettiest beaches I've seen here so far.
After cycling for a bit, I came to Playa Jobos. It was a small, very picturesque community, so took what I thought was a brief pit stop for lunch. I ended up spending the rest of the day here! The water was impossibly warm, closer to a hot bath than the ocean.
I grabbed a light lunch in Playa Jobos, some civeche de dorado and a margarita. The margarita was either an excellent choice or a terrible one, as before I knew it I was taking a siesta on the beach instead of finishing my bike tour! No regrets :D
After ending my bike and beach adventure, I headed back to Isabela to explore the town. This was Plaza de Isabela, the town center. A bunch of shops bordered the area, and locals seemed to enjoy coming here and playing dominos.
I snapped this photo of the sun setting on Isabela, then headed back to San Juan.
Back home, I went out trying to find some dinner. This mariachi band was wandering from restaurant to restaurant playing some tunes!
After wandering for a bit, I eventually came across this hole in the wall spot called Stop & Go. It was dirty, it was dingy, the music was too loud and none of the staff spoke English. But I'll be damned if it wasn't the best tacos I've ever had! And super cheap, two bucks for a taco and three for the beer.
On Sunday I decided to take a road trip to Caguas. I had a late start to the day, and didn't particularly feel like going to a beach. I was hopeful this nearby city in the valley would provide something interesting, but I was mostly incorrect. Here's the completely dead town square :D
The highlight of Caguas was this area, which actually was really cool. A small merry-go-round, some coffee and icecream shops, and there was even a giant cage with parrots inside.
Here's a neat art installation at the Caguas square.

October 10th, 2021

Alright, the place in Carolina did not work out! The noise from the airport ended up being so loud at times that it vibrated the building, and it was waking me up multiple times every night. On top of that, there was ongoing construction in the building during the day, the oven did not work and there were multiple power surges with no smoke detectors installed. The owner of the place was also refusing to let me back out of the lease. Luckily I had arranged through AirBNB, so I was able to contact and get backed by customer support. They had me gather evidence of all the above, and then refunded me. I found a new place in San Juan and will be moving there in just a couple of days. Coupled with all of the above and some pretty bad jetlag, most of my weekdays were spent just trying to catch up on sleep and stay productive at work.

As the weekend rolled around, I hopped on my bike and started exploring. I traveled from downtown San Juan, to small coastline towns. From coastline cycling trails all the way to sketchy paths through the rainforest. In a lot of ways, Puerto Rico is what I would have pictured a Caribbean island to be. It's pretty rough around the edges, and maintains clear evidence of the recent natural disasters. But the people are friendly, the food is good, and the beaches are beautiful. I'm really enjoying it so far, it feels authentic and down-to-earth. My Spanish is getting better already, and I'm starting formal courses next week.

Here's photos from my weekend:

This is the place in Carolina, at Mar de Isla Verde condominums. It's a beautiful, centrally located condo, but that couldn't make up for all the issues I encountered.
Punta Las Marías Skate Park, which is conveniently located directly across the street from a great local bike shop. Two hobbies in one trip! Clearly a bit run down and not maintained by anybody except the local skaters, but I'll take what I can get.
Just like Hawaii, there's feral roosters everywhere. Unlike Hawaii, there's these gigantic iguanas that roam around. The larger ones are easily three feet long. They're considered pests, but it's still hard for me not to be awestruck when I see one. What a cool looking creature! 
On the road boarding Playa Ocean Park.
My backyard! At least, until I move...this is Pine Grove Surfing Beach. There's usually some surfers out, and a stand that sells rentals...but honestly, not really great for surfing. The swell and break is right next to the shore.
Plaza de la Juventud. Nothing really else to note, just a pretty lookout point.
This was somewhere in Puerto Rico...I believe close by Aviones Beach.
Out exploring on my bike, I found this huge trail that goes for miles, through forests and along the coastline. It was really beat up in places, there were a couple miles of wooden boards through a swamp. The wood was rotting pretty bad and entire sections were missing.
Poll the audience: any ideas what this thing was? Clearly it was absolutely massive, much larger than me. I was scared to get too close, but didn't hear or see any insect or animals about. I found it in the swampy marshes of Torrecilla Alta
I spent a bit of time at Paseo Piñones, which was a tiny little coastal town. There were a ton of these little shack restaurants with freshly grilled meats and fried treats. This has been one of my favorite parts of Puerto Rico so far - just the authentic, hole in the wall restaurants with cheap food and even cheaper beer.
Just a taste, pun intended, of the awesome food I've ate this week. Top photo is BBQ chicken and carne empanada. Bottom left is porkchops and tostones de pana. Bottom right is mahi-mahi tacos with a crab salad topping. Blue light because the bar was all lit up.

October 3rd, 2021

I moved to Puerto Rico this weekend! I'm staying at an apartment in Carolina, just east of San Juan. Getting here was a bit rough - between flight delays, turbulence, and having my baggage put on the wrong plane, it was a pretty stressful trip. I didn't get to my apartment until around 9 PM. The apartment itself is great - the location feels very safe as it sits between two resorts and has 24/7 security and private parking. I have direct access to the beach, as well - just go down the elevator, take literally one step outside and I'm on the beach! One drawback is that it's really close to the airport, which runs nonstop. It can get pretty noisy, but I've got some strategies to deal with that.

Aside from the living situation, trying to navigate around in an unknown city by myself when I don't speak the primary language has been pretty intimidating. It's lead to some embarrassment and frustration, but also a great feeling of accomplishment when I do navigate an interaction effectively. I'm excited to see how the rest of my adventure in Puerto Rico is going to be!

I was wandering around the Google HQ and was surprised to come across what I thought was a life-size model of a Vendortron from Fallout. However, my Dad corrected me! It's very clearly actually Robby the Robot from Lost in Space. Keen eye!
My very first meal in Puerto Rico. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but hey...I'll take what I can get. No condiments, either. Just meat, cheese and bread. What a life.
Now that's more like it! My second meal in Puerto Rico, walked down the street to a place called Platos. This particular dish was El Jibarito: fried plantains stuffed with pork, then topped with cheese. The food and sangria was really good, and the waitress spoke fluent English. Even better, she was willing to help me learn as I tried conversing in Spanish.